By Mark Lubbock
“Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
I recently visited a church that was meeting to formalize the creation of a new UMM unit. Certified Men’s Ministry Specialist Joe Kelley (who is also the national prayer advocate) invited me to join him as he offered support and resources to this new group.
They were diverse in age which suggests this group reflects a cross-section of the church, a healthy sign!
Steve Browning, Jr. from Zachary (La.) UMC led the meeting.
Steve was discussing the design of a Ministry Fair booth for the UMM. The church offered him a table display made from foam core material that kids use for science fair projects. But he wanted something the guys would connect with and demonstrated a connection with the men of the church. He suggested, “Hey, let’s take some police caution tape and use it to make a border on a plywood sign for our UMM booth. In fact, why not take some duct tape and use it to make the letters of UMM!”
Great idea Steve!
Steve was envisioning a display through the eyes of his target audience: MEN. He understands “the man code,” one of the core tenants of men’s ministry. Make the environment inviting to men.
The rest of the group contributed ideas for the event and for the future of the men’s group.
Dinner that night at the meeting was spaghetti cooked by a locally renowned chef. It was delicious and filling, and connected with the men in attendance.
Older men who had been part of a defunct UMM unit were in attendance. These sages were empowering and encouraging.
I witnessed energy, purpose and a level of anticipation as the evening went on. This was certainly not a dead, go-nowhere meeting.
The keys to success were simple:
Provide personal invitations
Do not rely on notices in bulletins or emails. These help support the personal invitation, but rarely deliver when used alone.
Have a purpose
Meeting just to eat and have fellowship will not draw younger men, and even older men will quickly drift away. Leaders should establish a purpose and a mission. The commission and men’s ministry specialists are ready to help your unit with this task.
Provide food fit for men
Men appreciate quality and quantity when it comes to food.
Recruit, train and empower younger men
Personally invite young men and include them in the planning the event. Give them some responsibility and freedom to choose.
Today’s church is too often an example of what happens when you desperately cling to But-this-is-the-way-we’ve-always-done-this mentality.
Each generation has their own identity, and fashions its own style, preferences and experiences. Few, if any, want to adopt their parent’s style, let alone their grandparents’.
Consider the example of Jesus. He recruited and trained young inexperienced men and turned them loose. If Jesus could entrust the future of the church with young men, we would be foolish to reject a similar strategy.
Men’s groups thrive in healthy ways when they recruit, train, and empower younger men as a part of the leadership team.
Evaluate and update
Advertisers understand that you periodically have to change things up.
Create an annual review team made of a cross-section of your church men.
Do not limit this to men who attend your group’s meetings. Non-participants can help you identify new opportunities and craft a plan that will reach more men.
Include them all
Think about the many ways men are touched by your church, but who do not participate. What would it take to meet them where they are?
Consider the activities that men enjoy. Offer challenges accompanied by rewards for jobs well done. Incorporate variety that allows for varying preferences.
Certified men’s ministry specialists are here to help and the General Commission on UM Men provides a treasure house of knowledge, ideas, resources and assistance.
We all want to make you successful.
Please feel free to contact me with any ideas, questions or if you’d like me to come speak to your group.
The Rev. Mark Lubbock, deployed staff member
General Commission on UM Men